Keeping payments infrastructures safeguarded against the growing threat of cybercriminals is a never-ending battle. As defenses go up and get stronger, fraud advances and gets more sophisticated.
That’s why payments innovation isn’t just about delivering a solution, but delivering one that can create efficiency and reduce risk in a secure manner. Mike Lawrence, EVP and chief information officer of First American Payment Systems, joined the latest installment of PYMNTS’ Commander In Chief Series to share why payment providers have to ensure that security keeps pace with the advancement in new technologies and innovation in their products and services.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
PYMNTS: What does a day in a life of a chief information officer (CIO) look like?
ML: As executive vice president and CIO, I am responsible for the technology and security solutions we provide and how they are positioned in the marketplace. Some of my major responsibilities include leading all areas of technological development and security infrastructure as well as establishing the technical vision of our company.
Within my role, I work with our entire executive team to make sure we are providing the best products and solutions that meet the needs of our customers and partners as well as support our main business objectives. I spend a significant amount of time working with our multiple sales channels to ensure we understand our customers’ needs and requirements in order to deliver technologically advanced payment solutions.
Not only am I involved with day-to-day operations, but I spend a majority of my time interacting with my team as well as multiple departments throughout First American communicating our business objectives and ensuring they understand our goals and vision and how they all play a critical role to ensuring our customers and partners are successful.
PYMNTS: What is the most difficult part of your job, and why?
ML: The most challenging aspect within my role is managing and bringing various aspects of our business together to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding our company’s plans and goals and how technology helps achieve those goals.
I work very closely with our extensive IT team — development, security, enterprise services and infrastructure — to identify risks as well as opportunities for our business. It’s critical for me to be in lockstep with my team on our initiatives so that we can help our customers and partners with the most secure and comprehensive payment solutions. In addition to my team and other departments within First American, I work strategically with our executive team and board to continue to grow the business.
Another challenging area that any CIO has is managing the budget and ensuring that anything spent in the IT area provides a return on investment and helps meet our goals. I’m constantly analyzing this.
PYMNTS: What do you wish you had more time to do?
ML: I would like to have more time to spend with our employees. We have an extremely talented group of people who work for us who have helped First American become an industry leader in the merchant services industry. Our employees are the backbone of our company, and their hard work and dedication has made First American successful.
All of our employees play an integral role to our company, and having the opportunity to spend even more time to listen to, encourage and motivate them will help take our organization to the next level.
PYMNTS: What does innovation mean to you?
ML: To me, innovation means bringing relevant technology, products and services to our customers or partners we are targeting. First American has been innovative within our sales channels to ensure we are providing the correct solutions to these customers or partners, and we will continue to do so moving forward.
Security solutions have been a topic of conversation for many years, and that’s an area of innovation that we think is critical to our success. It’s important in today’s world to protect any and all credit card data used for transactions, and utilizing the latest forms of payment technology can provide this. From EMV to tokenization and encryption to PCI compliance tools and much more, we ensure that our customers have increased protection against fraud and potential threats.
Having advanced security solutions reduces risk and liability as well as creating efficiency. We include these security solutions in our 1stPay platform to complement and support the solutions we have today and those that we are bringing to market later this year. Today, businesses want products that are flexible and scalable and can offer robust payment features coupled with heightened security.
PYMNTS: Speaking specifically of the payments and commerce space, what in your opinion is the most impactful innovation in that realm in the past five years?
ML: Mobile payment acceptance is changing the way payments are processed, as more consumers are looking to pay via mobile over other traditional forms. Today, consumers want the capability to pay with their phone, pay through mobile apps and pay ahead — making mobile payments appealing as they offer quick and convenient payments for the busy, on-the-go consumer.
Two forms of technology that have greatly impacted mobile payment acceptance are mobile wallets and mobile point of sale (mPOS). The recent success of Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay has shown that consumers are now transitioning to using their smartphone device to make payments over traditional card or cash. With enhanced security features, such as encryption and tokenization, mobile wallet transactions provide heightened protection against fraud.
mPOS has also shown to be valuable for both merchants who may not have a brick-and-mortar location, such as food trucks or for use at special events and community fairs. The transition to using a smartphone or tablet to accept payments has changed the industry. It’s changed the way we look at payments and how payments are accepted by the merchant.
With payments becoming more digitally influenced, mobile payments and mPOS solutions will continue to thrive for years to come and could very well become the main way consumers make their purchases and merchants accept payments.
PYMNTS: Any recent success stories you would like to share with us?
ML: There is something I’m very proud of that couldn’t have been possible without the entire First American team’s commitment and support. In less than a year, First American has built a highly competitive independent software vendor (ISV) offering that has become a game changer for us. We have built a robust integrated payments solution that is targeted toward partners in a variety of industries using the latest in payment technology and development tools. The way we have built the solution, leveraging our REST API and other advanced technology, has allowed us to bring on many partners and have them integrated in a few weeks, if not quicker. Our goal was to make integrating payments quick and painless. I believe we have accomplished this. Now, we are adding on features and functionality that our partners have asked us for. It’s a growing, evolving product that is relevant and meets the needs of ISVs and their customers in the marketplace.